Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Indicator Plots

An indicator plot has been set up in Shimoni West to enable an intensive study to be made of a 50m x 50m sample of the forest habitat. Several surveys will be carried out within the plot, and on Friday we visited to see if the two newly installed butterfly traps had caught anything, sweep netting having proved impossible in the tangle of under-storey. We also had to carry out an active search, where surveyors are encouraged to be as proactive as possible in finding species (in contrast to a passive search where animals are looked for without disturbing anything).

The net traps, suspended from the branches of trees and baited with fermented bananas, had attracted one butterfly in each, both large and very attractive. Before taking them out it was important to check that nothing likely to bite or sting had also entered the trap. It is daunting at first to grab hold of a butterfly but these animals are large and robust and once you have your hand around them it is relatively easy to manoeuvre them so that you are lightly grasping the thorax with the other hand, enabling a photograph to be taken of both upper and under sides to aid identification. Consulting the butterfly guide later, one species appeared to be a striking female mocker (Papilio dardanus polytrophus), the other was equally striking but harder to identify.

Looking around at the start of the 15 minute active search, it appeared that the plot was devoid of life, but once the leaf litter was disturbed, stones and logs rolled over and stems and leaves examined, animals became evident - between three of us we found a sharp-nosed ridged frog, a tiny toad and even a one foot long snake.